June 3, 2009 / 8:17 PM / 10 years ago

Jobless rates in U.S. cities zoom higher in April

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The weak labor market is hurting U.S. cities — centers of many industries and large housing markets — with 93 metropolitan areas registering an unemployment rate of at least 10 percent in April, according to Labor Department data released on Wednesday.

That is more than 13 times the number of cities that notched the same high levels a year earlier, the Department said.

Currently, the national unemployment rate is 8.9 percent, but in nearly 150 cities a higher proportion of residents were out of work this spring.

At the same time, the number of cities posting unemployment rates below 7 percent was 117, which was less than half of the 347 cities recording lower rates just a year earlier.

The Labor Department said nine of the 13 metropolitan areas with jobless rates of at least 15 percent were in California.

The state’s city of El Centro, less than a half hour’s drive from the Mexican border, had the highest rate in the country at 26.9 percent. The city has outpaced all others in unemployment each month in 2009.

Of the 49 metropolitan areas with populations of more than 1 million in the survey, Detroit had the highest unemployment rate of 13.6 percent. The city, home to the beleaguered U.S. auto industry, is the most prominent city in Michigan, which was the state with the highest jobless rate for the month.

It was followed by California’s Riverside area, which is north of El Centro and still smarting from the housing slump.

The Labor Department said that 291 metropolitan areas reported drops in the number of jobs from a year earlier.

On Friday, the department will release its U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for May. Payrolls likely fell by the smallest amount in seven months, pointing to a slackening of the recession, but the unemployment rate looks set to climb to its highest in nearly 26 years, a Reuters poll showed.

The survey of 79 economists forecast employers cut 520,000 jobs last month after reducing payrolls by 539,000 in April, which was the smallest number of jobs cut since October.

They expect the U.S. jobless rate to rise to 9.2 percent, the highest since September 1983, from 8.9 percent in April.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by James Dalgleish

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